“Tides Advance, Tides Retreat,” Review of WATER LOG by Hugo Clemente

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Serene, seductive, buoyant, and seething in turn, Hugo Clemente’s Water Log is ever shifting and always beautiful, like the ocean that features as both character and landscape in this fragmented narrative. It has been called poetry, a novel, a love story, a travel log — and while it is these things, it’s also a celebration of the nomadic surfer’s lifestyle and a keen-eyed critique of those who inhabit and visit the Canary Islands.

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“Love Lies Large,” Review of LOVE WAR STORIES by Ivelisse Rodriguez

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: In her debut collection, Ivelisse Rodriguez shows us that love and war do not exist as binary opposites—they are not even two sides of the same coin or any other cliché that points to a line, a division between the two. Love is war, an amorphous, shifting mass that stains forever what it does not consume.

Readers should mark that a Julia de Burgos quote opens the first story, and that is a clue to what follows. The famous Puerto Rican poet—champion of women and independence, disappointed so many times by love and lovers—will show up here and there throughout the pages that follow, an inspiration to the characters as well as Rodriguez herself. That several biographies trace a straight line from de Burgos’s heartache to her early death is lost on no one.

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“Hurt Like a Man,” Review of THE DOGS OF DETROIT by Brad Felver

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: One phrase comes to mind again and again while reading Brad Felver’s story collection, The Dogs of Detroit: toxic masculinity.

Colleen Clemens, in her essay “What We Mean When We Say, ‘Toxic Masculinity'” for The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project (tolerance.org), asserts that the term refers to a gender-construct theory—that it does not label all men as violent or evil, but that it is a “dangerous brand of masculinity” that can reinforce or encourage violence as the only or best answer.

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“Off Track and the Climb Back,” Review of CATCH, RELEASE by Adrianne Harun

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: What happens in the murky spaces between bright streets and crowded playgrounds? Where do the children go when no adult can bother to wonder; what do the adults get up to when grief, addiction, and sex stop up their senses and make them forget the roles they’re supposed to play?

Adrianne Harun shows us the answers in her third book, Catch, Release, a collection of short stories linked by her protagonists’ dark urges and unblinking shamelessness.

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“Groping Through the Fog,” Review of NOTES FROM THE FOG by Ben Marcus

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Folks don’t always know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, what they’re supposed to be doing instead, and, moreover, how they’re supposed to feel about any of that. Ben Marcus’s collection Notes from the Fog seems to offer readers a variety of these existential crises—the author spreading out the brutal choices like a Vegas dealer fanning out cards—and while no one will really find clear answers to those questions or even much comfort in reading the stories, the collection’s narrators and speakers do function as grinning Pied Pipers who will dance everyone happily to hell.

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“On Giving and Forgiving,” Review of MY BEARD: MEMOIR STORIES by Sharon Doubiago

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Sharon Doubiago’s vibrant career as a poet, memoirist, teacher, and chronicler has most recently given readers My Beard: Memoir Stories, what her included biography calls “a memoir in the form of individual stories rather than the on-going narrative of traditional memoir.” Though the term “beard” calls to mind disguises—costume-shop props as well as pretended heterosexual relationships—Doubiago can’t be accused of hiding behind one in any of these remembered encounters. If anything, her accounts are painfully bare, raw in the sense that even with the balm of time and reflection, the reader can feel her frequent heartache and sometimes physical agony crackling outward from the pages.

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